Northern Health declares COVID-19 outbreak at 1,100-MW Site C construction

Site C location

Northern Health’s Medical Health Officer has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at BC Hydro’s 1,100-MW Site C hydropower project. Northern Health has determined work on the project can continue as planned, with the implementation of additional safety measures.

Since early August, BC Hydro has seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases related to the project. There are 32 active cases and BC Hydro is working closely with Northern Health to manage these cases. In addition, more than 110 workers are isolating at home or in the worker accommodation lodge.

As part of the outbreak declaration, Northern Health will support the implementation of enhanced infection control, measures including:

  • Limiting interaction between the project workforce and local communities. Workers staying in camp will not be able to leave site for the duration of the outbreak;
  • Reimplementing COVID-19 prevention measures such as wearing masks and physical distancing on the worksites; and
  • Increasing focus on ongoing workforce COVID-19 immunizations, which include developing plans for requiring workers coming to the site to have a COVID-19 vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours, or an approved exemption.

“The health and safety of our workers and the public remains our top priority,” said Chris O’Riley, president and chief executive officer of BC Hydro. “We will continue to work closely with Northern Health and our contractors to implement these measures to help keep our workers and the surrounding communities safe.”

These steps are in addition to the measures the project had continued throughout Step 3 of the Province’s Restart plan, which included: mandatory mask use in all common areas, meeting rooms and buses; reduced work force capacity in offices, and on-going enhanced hygiene and gate health screening.

The recent cases are a combination of community and workplace transmissions and are dispersed across multiple contractors, work fronts and geographic home locations, according to a release. The workers in isolation are a combination of close contacts identified through contact tracing and individuals reporting to BC Hydro’s onsite medical clinic with respiratory symptoms.

To date, nearly 1,800 workers have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine through the onsite medical clinic, and about 1,450 have received a second dose through the clinic. Other workers have received a vaccine outside the project through their local health authority.

The Site C project is under construction on the Peace River and is anticipated to begin operation in 2025.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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